In my “About me” section, I write that I am (learning to be) a natural parent. Natural parent isn’t a term that is heard regularly—I had never come across it until I stumbled upon the Natural Parents Network shortly after Gus was born. As I read about natural parenting and read the blogs of self-described natural parents while my newborn slept in my arms, I realised that this was a parenting philosophy that really gelled with the type of parent I wanted to be. It doesn’t (necessarily) mean that parenting a baby/toddler comes naturally to me, or that I am going “back to nature” to live like some mythical primitive woman. Basically, natural parenting is striving to “live and parent responsively and consciously.” (NPN) Or, to use my favourite word to describe my parenting goals, it is saying that I parent intentionally.
That’s what a philosophy regarding parenting is, really, a set of goals and priorities. It certainly isn’t a list of things that I do perfectly day in and day out. We all have goals for ourselves as parents, for our children, and for our relationships with them. For myself (and Jon! although I do much more thinking about this sort of stuff than he does), I have found thus far that the ideals of natural parenting give me a good framework for setting my own long and short-term priorities.
You might also be wondering why, in the “About me” section, I have the parenthetical rider learning to be. This is not because I think there is one right way to be a natural parent which I hope to emulate. It is more about the idea of parenting as a learning process. I do not think of myself as The Parent with All The Answers. Instead, Jon, Gus and myself (and any other children we might be blessed with in the future) all work together to figure out this thing of raising a person. I am sure I will make (have made!) mistakes, and there are things I will do differently as I go forward. But this is all part of the journey. The learning to be helps remind me that I am not going to get everything right every time, but there is no reason to beat myself up about it. With an effort to do things intentionally and a conviction to keep going and try to improve when I make a mistake, I set out to be the best parent I can.
I know that a lot of people don't like labels, as they can be restricting or perpetuate stereotypes. Personally, I like to have a label for this sort of thing because it helps me organise my thoughts around the issue and connect with people that might have things in common. I don't look at it as something that I (or anyone else) need to stick to religiously, though.. Over the next several weeks I am going to be writing about how the values of natural parenting are lived out in our family at the moment.
The Practices of Natural Parenting (from the NPN website)
- Attachment Parenting
- Prepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting
- Feed with love and respect
- Respond with sensitivity
- Use nurturing touch
- Ensure safe sleep
- Provide consistent and loving care
- Practice gentle/positive discipline
- Strive for balance in personal and family life
- Ecological responsibility and love of nature
- Holistic health practices
- Natural learning
As this is not only a series on natural parenting, but on my own personal parenting goals and values, I am going to take the liberty of adding an additional practice encompassing the spiritual component: Raising a holy child of God.
I was hoping to write a bit about attachment parenting as a whole and its first principle, preparing for birth and parenting, today, but apparently I had too much to say by way of introduction to the series as a whole. I look forward to sharing those thoughts with you next time!